AT THE beginning of April, we took the short route from Morham village to reach the kirk.

Steps on the wall on the west side of the village lead you to the path, which takes you along the topside of Morham burn. This is a right of way which leads you to a stile on the far side of the field. Once you cross this, the kirk suddenly comes into view below you.

The setting is magical and, at this time of year especially, quite beautiful. It feels like a discovery of an ancient hidden sacred place. There is more to see here than can be seen.

There was once a castle on the western side of the burn, initially the residence of Thomas de Morham and his family, hence the name.

That was in the twelfth century and what that early structure looked like we can only guess.


A community evaluation of the site in 2019 (part of the Whiteadder; Historic Heart of The Lammermuirs Project) revealed the foundations of a curving stone-built wall, as well as fragments of medieval ceramics from the twelfth to fifteenth century. I can imagine the excitement when a James IV coin was discovered by a younger member of the team.

Like all noble homes, the tower will have been changed over the centuries, as did the occupants. There is a reference in an old statistical account from the late eighteenth century which says that people remembered a “large and extensive structure.”

Yet, nothing now is left, except the foundational remains below the ground in the field, and marks on some old maps. But I see it; in my imagination, when I venture this way.

I will confess, it’s not just the history which draws me here in springtime, it’s also a tree.

It’s a cherry tree with a gnarled and broken trunk, which sits by the side of the path, atop the brae watching over the kirk like a sentinel. If you are lucky enough to see it in blossom it will take your breath away. Its disfigured shape adds to its majesty; evidence of the tree’s defiance and resilience.

East Lothian Courier: Tim's Tales: Morham Kirk pieceTim's Tales: Morham Kirk piece

Each time I come here my heart skips a beat as I approach, for fear the tree may be further damaged or felled by the winter storms.

But when we arrived, there it was, as proud as the year before. We were unfortunately too early this year to see it in blossom, but the buds were out in preparation for its springtime display.

Below the brae sits Morham kirk. It has a simple beauty, but what you see today is only 300 years old. I say only because Morham is a site of Christian worship that may take us back into the mists of time. Much of the community this church served has now gone; its tranquillity belies its former importance.

The earliest written reference to a church here is 1245, but it seems there was almost definitely a church on the same spot before that. The weathered information board by the entrance declares the site to be twelfth century, which would date its origins around the same time as the now lost castle.

But this may well have been a site of even older Christian worship, dating back to the ninth century at least. The evidence for this is a section of an Anglo-Saxon cross shaft, which was found in the south wall of the eighteenth-century kirk.

East Lothian Courier: Tim's Tales: Morham KirkTim's Tales: Morham Kirk

This segment of an early Christian cross seems to have been used by the builders as simply a big brick. I suppose in the 1720s, when the current kirk was built, such artistic adornments didn’t impress Calvinistic sentiments.

But then again, perhaps the builders understood the importance of the ancient cross fragment, and wanted it incorporated into the fabric of the church, as a sign of spiritual continuity, assuming the cross was from the same location. We will never know.

Thankfully the segment was removed to preserve it, and you can see it in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

But I remembered there was a drawing of it inside the church, and I wanted to see if it was still there, and show it to my wife Kate. The kirk was locked however, and we were unable to acquire the key.

Never mind, it was a wonderful day. Maybe we can see the real thing in the museum some other time, I suggested.

Two weeks later I was a parent helper on a school trip to the National Museum of Scotland. My role was to help the teacher keep the children safe. I felt like a cross between a sheep dog and a bodyguard. I had no time to look at any of the exhibits of course.

East Lothian Courier: Tim's Tales: Morham Kirk pieceTim's Tales: Morham Kirk piece

Then, in the last 20 minutes of the visit, the teacher decided to take the children to a small play area in the museum. As the children played, I happened to glance at one of the carved stones on display nearby. I couldn’t believe it! It was the segment of the Morham cross!

The children were safely playing so I was able to study it for a few minutes.

It has vine scroll decorations with birds and strange looking beasts. The creature at the bottom of the shaft intrigued me the most. What was it? It looked almost Pictish, but the information board told me that the style was typical of ninth century Anglian sculpture in Yorkshire!

Morham in the ninth century was part of Anglian settlement of course, so that makes sense. But it left me with more to wonder. Who were the artists, where exactly was the cross originally sited, how famous was it in its day? Was it a major place of pilgrimage?

Suddenly we had to leave. A mass dash to the toilet was required before heading for the bus. But I paused for a one final moment to admire the magnificent thousand-year-old carvings. It wasn’t just an exhibit, it was a connection to my home county.

And I knew I’d be back.